similar high school massacre dwells on the mundanity of the school day: static shots of the football field slowly amble into unremarkable scenes of a geeky looking female student unloading books from a carriage back onto library shelves. It is. in short and for want of a better label. an an house film and. as such. is hound to raise the heckles of our tabloid media in the same way the Japanese thriller film Battle Royale did briefly in 2()()() and Doug (‘oupland‘s Hey Nustrm/unnis.’ and Man Booker prize winner Vernon (iml Little have done since. It seems that for these guardians of our moral welfare there is never an excuse for tackling that most revered of taboos: the subject of kids killing kids. with anything other than factual distance or deeply emotive succour.
(ius Van Sant. the oddball director whose career seems to be a constant swing between the culty (Drugsim'v (hie/2m). the satirical ('1?) Die I'iir). the commercially viable (Good Will Hunting) and the deliberately obscure (last year‘s Bela Tarr— influenced Gerry) is clearly a man used to defending the method of his madness. ‘American High School shootings. including Columbine. had reached an all time high. l wanted
to make something that tried to capture the atmosphere of kids going to school at this time. We didn‘t want to explain anything. As soon as you explain one thing. there are five other possibilities that are somehow negated. There was also the chance that you may be attempting to find an explanation for something that does not necessarily have one.‘
Van Sant balks at the idea of travelling the path most trodden: 'I did want to get away from a style that is sometimes expected from films where you have a filmmaker saying that violence by young people is caused by video games or television or something like that. I wanted to try to use the characters themselves and their actions to describe the psychological motives rather than to try to explore the motives outright. It was another way to describe these events. doing it through ordinary dialogue and in a minimalist. more realistic way. I wanted to use the ordinary and more mundane aspects of these kids‘ lives without trying to explain anything.”
At the other end of the creative scale. the rise and apparent ubiquity of high school killings in the US has deemed it a safe. if slightly sacrilegious. subject on which to hang the most
Gus Van Sant (main picture) recruited untrained actors to play the parts of the kids in Elephant (inset).
22 Jan-z") Feb 2004 THE LIST 13